Planning for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Posted by Andrew R. Jones on Dec 11, 2017 8:00:00 AM

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Learn more about the readings, music, and worship-service planning helps for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany (January 21, 2018).

Season & Preparations

Epiphany is a time for Christ’s light and revelation. The readings and hymnody of the season follow a trajectory of glimpsing God’s will in Jesus Christ a little more every week. This week reveals the amazing power of the Word of God. When God’s Word is proclaimed, it changes lives. It does not return to God empty. God’s Word overturns hearts and causes people to repent, to turn around, to leave behind the ways of sin, death, and Satan, to follow Jesus.

There are no necessary changes in decorations or colors from last week to this week. We continue with green. However, if you have banners in your church that say “Come, Follow Me,” “Fishers of Men,” or some other phrase connected to today’s Gospel, they may be a nice addition to the worship space.

Readings & Theme

The theme of the day revolves around answering God’s call to follow Him. The Gospel for this day records the calling of the first disciples. It is a fitting Epiphany text as it gives us a glimpse of what Jesus will do. One thing He will do is preach repentance and call on people to believe the Gospel. Jesus will share the Good News that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus will call people into His service, and He will turn them into fishers of men, into people who reflect His own actions of seeking and saving the lost.

The Old Testament Reading, from Jonah 3, records Jonah following God and preaching His Word to Nineveh (albeit after some thorough convincing in the belly of a great fish). Jonah serves as a connection to both Jesus and the first disciples. Jonah preaches words of repentance just as Jesus does. Jonah (however imperfectly) follows God just as the disciples do. Likewise, the people of Nineveh repent in sackcloth and ashes, following the Word of the Lord spoken to them through Jonah. The lectionary suggests reading Jonah 3:1–5, 10. This skipping of verses 6–9 removes the reaction of the king in Nineveh. The reading makes sense without verses 6–9, but you should be aware of the skip in case you wish to include those verses.

The Epistle, from 1 Corinthians 7, continues Epiphany’s walk through 1 Corinthians 6–9. Paul encourages the Corinthians to live differently since the appointed time of Jesus’ return is near.

Hymns & Music

The Hymn of the Day is “O Christ, Our True and Only Light” (LSB 839). This hymn fits the reading from Jonah 3 quite well. The Ninevites were evil people. Jonah despised them so much that he ran away from God’s call to preach to them. They were people “who [sat] in night”; they had “gone astray”; they were “lost in error’s maze” (LSB 839:1, 3, 2). Of course, so was Jonah, and so were the disciples, and so were we all until Christ, the Light and the Way, shined on us and showed us out of darkness.

Though I also suggested it for last week, “‘Come, Follow Me,’ the Savior Spake” (LSB 688) is a solid choice for today as it brings together the themes of the day and the themes of the season: following Jesus, who is the Light.

Also fitting for the day are “The People That in Darkness Sat” (LSB 412) and “O Christ, Who Called the Twelve” (LSB 856).

Additional Resources for Worship & Study

CPH has two Arch Books about the Jonah story that may be helpful with teaching the story to children: Jonah and the Very Big Fish and Jonah, the Runaway Prophet. You might also consider using the Arch Book The Twelve Ordinary Men, which connects to today’s Gospel. If you plan to work with 1 Corinthians through the Epiphany season, Gregory Lockwood’s Concordia Commentary: 1 Corinthians should prove useful.


Looking for additional information on planning for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany? Download our planning sheet to help you get started!

Download Epiphany 3 Planning Sheet

Tags: Epiphany Season, Service Planning